Student Success Story: Sahmra Sawyer

Sahmra Sawyer is a rising senior on the Stamford Campus majoring in Psychological Sciences.

Sahmra Sawyer is studying Psychological Sciences at UConn Stamford. While her long-term goal has been to become a therapist, this summer she discovered a love for teaching. She participated in an internship with College Corps CT to provide enrichment opportunities for students in grades K-12 who have had their school years significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Sahmra shares her story with the Center for Career Development.

Tara Malone: How did you choose your major and area of academic interest?

Sahmra Sawyer: I have always gravitated towards writing and social studies in high school. When I was 16 years old, I decided that I was going to become a person who will lead, encourage, and teach. In school, biases, stereotypes, and colorism existed and was more heavily implemented by my peers. At a young age, I got to witness and experience these things and that’s when I began reading a lot about black history and doing a lot of digging. Digging for truth. Digging for clarity. Digging for strength. I just knew I was more than what my social environment was trying to make of me. I was inspired by the strengths and persistence that came from my ancestry and it later increased my confidence because I was aware and knowledgeable about myself, and what I was experiencing. I, eventually, decided to major in psychology because of how introspective and curious I was and still am. I figured if I could educate someone else and guide them through their own learning process then I could change their mind, and if I can change their mind then I could change their life.

TM: What is your current career goal?

SS: My current career goal is to become a professor or teacher after grad school, then eventually become a psychotherapist with my own practice and wellness center in the future.

TM: Tell us about your summer internship.

SS: This past summer I got an internship at Side by Side Charter School in Norwalk, CT as a student Service Assistant and Poetry Teacher for a Summer Learning and Enrichment Program. My internship focused on academic remediation for all students, including low income and English learning students who suffered from academic loss and social and emotional impairment during the school year due to COVID-19. I was able to teach poetry and share my own poetry about positive self-concepts and confidence to students in grades 2-8, assist and help students with their academics in a Humanities and Literacy class, and shadow a second-grade teacher who teaches math and literacy.

TM: When you were looking for internship opportunities, how did you go about conducting your search? How did you find out about your current position?

SS: I have been actively looking for summer internships and utilizing the Center for Career Development since the fall semester of 2021. Tara Malone, the Regional Campus Associate Director at the Stamford Career Center, sent me an email about College Corps CT Summer Program. This program is part of a statewide effort to promote summer enrichment opportunities for students in grades K-12 who have had their school years disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, coordinated by the staff at Fairfield University. I got accepted and was placed at Side by Side Charter School in Norwalk, CT to start working.

TM: What groups, organizations, and/or resources at UConn do you feel helped to contribute to your success so far?

SS: The Center of Career Development is one of the most helpful and effective resources for me on campus. They have informed me about events, organizations, opportunities, and resources pertaining to my field of study. Tara Malone and Chrys Tsilibes have helped me to connect with employers in the Stamford area, provided advice on how I can improve my résumé, and guidance on ways I can be a better candidate for opportunities.

TM: Based on your internship experience, what do you feel are some skills or competencies that are essential for your field?

SS: From assisting in a classroom to actually teaching, some skills and competencies that are essential for my field of study are definitely patience, passion, and selflessness. Patience with my ability to deliver, to impact, to teach, and learn. Oftentimes I want everything to go as planned but the reality is that’s not always the case. I learned that I sometimes have to let others take the lead. By letting the students guide me during the lessons, I was able to understand that. Second is passion. Passion for the work you’re doing is so imperative because your performance is led by the feeling you have about the work you’re doing. Lastly, selflessness. I learned that once you agree to serve for a greater purpose, it’s no longer about you. Everything you do and say will and can influence a child you’re working with or teaching. During that internship, it was my responsibility to make sure the children were feeling good about themselves and motivated to do well in whatever it is they were doing. It was a very empowering experience for me.

TM: What advice would you give to current UConn students who are looking to secure their first internship experience?

SS: To any UConn students looking to secure their first internship experience, I want to tell you do not overthink the process. Let your interests align with the career that’s for you. Always make sure your actions and intentions are focused on what can help you get to where you want to be in the long run. Utilize every resource on campus and never hesitate to introduce yourself and connect with others. You hold a lot of value and you are needed in your future profession.

By Tara Malone
Tara Malone Associate Director, Regional Campuses Pronouns: she/her/hers